White House Lays Out Plans to Scale Up Microgrids, Storage & Renewables

June 17, 2016
The White House on Thursday laid out an extensive list of projects to scale up microgrids, energy storage and renewables in an “extraordinary example of a nation marshaling diverse forces to advance clean energy initiatives.”

The Obama Administration on Thursday laid out an extensive list of federal, utility and private actions to scale up microgrids, energy storage and renewable energy throughout the US.

The menu of initiatives came out of a summit that the White House hosted to boost the growing combination of renewables and energy storage.

The event drew several major power companies, energy developers, municipalities and regulators to the nation’s capital, who released a list of projects, commitments and solicitations for advanced energy technologies.

Tom Stepien, CEO of flow battery company Primus, called the gathering an extraordinary example of a nation marshaling diverse forces to advance clean energy initiatives that are vital to US national interests.

“Here in this room, there are representatives from government and private industry, start-ups and established giants, entrepreneurs and captains of industry, collectively committed to commercializing technologies with game-changing sustainability implications for our country and the planet,” he said.

In aggregate, the commitments made at the event represent about $1 billion in energy storage investments alone, according to the White House.

Advanced microgrids often include renewables and energy storage. The microgrid controller – the software ‘brains’ of the system — leverages the pairing to achieve maximum return on the assets.

Plans to scale up microgrids

Specific to microgrids, the June 16 announcements included several military and private projects in several states.

The Navy’s Office of Naval Research announced that it will fund the Alaska Microgrid Innovation and Commercialization project at the University of Alaska Fairbanks.  The project will focus on practical and cost-effective ways to incorporate large amounts of renewable energy into a microgrid, particularly in the Arctic and other remote locations where weather is severe.

The White House also announced that the design phase is now underway for a microgrid at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam. The Air Force Research Laboratory and the Hawaii Air National Guard are working on the project to demonstrate the complex integration of several renewable energy and energy storage technologies within one microgrid. The microgrid will power critical mission assets during energy disruptions.

Among utility announcements, Florida Power & Light (FPL) unveiled a plan to create ‘microgrid foundations’ via a battery back-up system at the southern tip of Everglades National Park. Located in Flamingo community of Monroe County, the remote area is 45 miles from any other electric customer. The project is meant to improve electric reliability for a visitor center, campground and water treatment facility.

“Because of our remote location, the concept of having clean, quiet, on-site back-up power is exciting. FPL’s project could make a big difference for us and our ability to provide uninterrupted access to this national treasure for thousands of people around the world,” said Mike Jester, chief of facilities management for Everglades National Park.

The utility expects to begin construction this summer and have much of the project operating by the end of the year.

FPL also plans to:

  • Repurpose used batteries from more than 200 BMW electric vehicles to test peak shaving in a densely populated residential area in southwestern Miami.
  • Design a mobile storage system that could be relocated as needed to prevent power interruptions at major sports events. FPL plans to build the portable battery system in time for testing during the 2017 Miami Open at Crandon Park Tennis Center on the island of Key Biscayne.

Vermont’s Green Mountain Power highlighted a partnership to build a microgrid in Panton, Vermont, which pairs utility-scale solar with battery storage.

Private company Advanced Microgrid Solutions committed to deploy 500 MWh of advanced energy storage by 2020, which will use microgrid control technologies.

The U.S. Green Building Council plans to hold public/private events to support the District of Columbia’s efforts to encourage microgrid development.

Barriers remain to energy storage

In addition, 16 developers and power companies in at least eight states announced new storage targets. In all, the Obama administration highlighted 33 programs that it said will lead to 1.3 GW of additional energy storage in five years.

This comes after the US doubled the installed capacity of advanced energy storage to 500 MW in 2015.

Matt Roberts, executive director of the Energy Storage Association, praised the White House support, but also warned that regulatory barriers lie ahead for the technology.

“Markets need to be structured to reward system performance and not favor incumbent interests over innovative solutions,” he said. “We also need to expand efforts to create truly integrated resource planning that incorporates the full range of benefits that assets like energy storage provide—properly valuing energy storage systems as a power, energy and non-transmission alternative.”

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Other projects and market opportunities named to scale up microgrid and related technologies include:

  • The General Services Administration (GSA) plans to issue a solicitation seeking information on building-level energy storage to explore emergency back-up and demand response management of peak loads.
  • The Air Force’s Resilient Energy Demonstration Initiative (REDI) said it will release a Request for Information to energy developers and technology companies to provide energy assurance services to critical facilities at Beale Air Force Base (AFB) in California.
  • Massachusetts  plans to offer grants later this year for energy storage demonstration projects to test the viability of energy storage technology and innovations in the Massachusetts energy market.
  • Siemens and Con Edison formed a new partnership to use data from Con Edison’s Advanced Metering Infrastructure rollout to help consumers with renewable energy integration.
  • Duke Energy will deploy at least 5 MW of energy storage in the Asheville region of North Carolina to improve reliability as Duke closes its coal-fired power plants in the
  • Los Angeles Department of Water and Power plans to procure 24 MW of energy storage by 2016 and 178 MW by 2021.
  • Pacific Gas & Electric intends to invest about $3 billion a year through 2020 to make the grid more resilient, integrating distributed solar, energy storage, electric vehicles and other low-carbon technologies.
  • Southern California Edison plans to procure least 580 MW of energy storage projects by 2020 (which must be operational by 2024) to support grid optimization, renewable energy integration, and greenhouse gas reduction.
  • Energy Impact Partners LP (EIP) plans to invest up to $30 million in the energy storage sector.  EIP and its utility partners, Southern Company, National Grid and Xcel are also announcing the launch of a multi-utility working group to assess innovation and investment opportunities in energy storage.

Some of the other commitments announced were: up to $100 million in commercial scale, proven battery-based energy storage projects by 2017 by Hannon Armstrong; a doubling of advanced energy by Invenergy — from 68 MW in 2015 to 136 MW by 2020; a global energy storage pilot program for data centers by Microsoft, Primus Power, NRG Energy, the University of Texas at San Antonio; 450 MW of new energy storage by RES Americas; and energy storage by Stem for up to 100 commercial facilities, totaling 4 MW (16 MWh) in Northern California.

A full list of projects can be found on the White House website.

What else can be done to scale up microgrids, storage and renewables in the US? Post your comments below or our Linkedin Group, Microgrid Knowledge.

About the Author

Elisa Wood | Editor-in-Chief

Elisa Wood is the editor and founder of EnergyChangemakers.com. She is co-founder and former editor of Microgrid Knowledge.

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